The yardlong bean is also known as the long-podded cowpea, asparagus bean, snake bean, or Chinese long bean. It is known as dau gok in Cantonese, thua fak yao in Thai and kacang panjang in Indonesian and Malay, sitaw in Tagalog, bora in the West Indies and vali or eeril in Goa, India. Despite the name, the pods are actually only about half a yard long; the subspecies name sesquipedalis (one-and-a-half-foot-long) is a rather exact approximation of the pods' length.
This plant is of a different genus and is only distantly related to the common bean. It is a vigorous climbing annual vine. A variety of the cowpea, it is grown primarily for its strikingly long (35-75 cm) immature pods and has uses very similar to that of a green bean. The pods, which begin to form just 60 days after sowing, hang in pairs. They are best if picked for vegetable use before they reach full maturity. The plant is subtropical/tropical and most widely grown in the warmer parts of Southeastern Asia, Thailand, and Southern China. Yardlong beans are quick-growing and daily checking/harvesting is often a necessity. The many varieties of yardlong beans are usually distinguished by the different colours of their mature seeds.
A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
The crisp, tender pods are eaten both fresh and cooked. They are at their best when young and slender. They are sometimes cut into short sections for cooking uses. They are used in stir fries in Chinese recipes. In Malaysian cuisine they are often stir fried with chillies and shrimp paste (sambal) or used in cooked salads (kerabu). Another popular and healthy option is to chop them into very short cubes and fry them in an omelette.